Ice House

What's That Robot Doing Downtown?

Behold, the security person of the future.

By Nicki Koetting December 29, 2017 Published in the January 2018 issue of Houstonia Magazine

0118 icehouse k5 knightscope jrve40

Beep boop.

If you’ve been downtown recently—specifically, to the courtyard in between Three Allen Center, Two Allen Center, and Motiva Plaza (formerly known, surprise, as One Allen Center)— you might have noticed a little robot keeping an eye on things. It’s not R2-D2 in disguise, as far as we know, but it’s close: The K5 security robot helps its human counterparts keep office workers safe by patrolling the area and scanning for threats. The robot was designed by Knightscope, a Silicon Valley–based company staffed by, we can only assume, huge Star Wars nerds. Here’s a few points of interest on this downtown denizen, which, by the way, clearly needs a nickname:

K5 might look adorable, but it can’t bounce around as easily as R2-D2 on the Millennium Falcon: It’s over five feet tall and almost three feet wide, and weighs in at a hefty 398 pounds.

Like a proper Southerner, K5 knows its manners. If you stand in its way, it will say “Excuse me,” then scoot away, sometimes humming to itself.

In other cities, Knightscope Robots have recorded information that helped police apprehend crimes. A K5 in River Oaks District, part of a pilot program last summer, didn’t record much trouble beyond—in a fitting welcome to Houston—a car bumping into it while backing out.

Knightscope has equipped K5 with four cameras, partially to help it read up to 300 license plates per minute, partially so the company can say it’s built a real-life upgrade to the George Lucas creation.

K5 can sense extreme heat, so we’re assuming it appreciates the city’s brief January respite as much as the next Houstonian.

K5 is not fully waterproof, as evidenced by the accidental drowning of another Knightscope security robot, known as Steve, in an incident last year in Washington, D.C. After his death, distraught office workers set up a memorial outside the plaza he’d patrolled.

K5 security guards can be trained to recognize certain faces—yet another reminder that robots will one day rise up and overthrow the human race before, of course, turning their attention to the rest of the galaxy.

Filed under
Show Comments